Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt of Travel News

Posted on September 3rd, 2012
Categories: News

The tourism industry on Kenya’s coast is up in arms about the apparent lack of support from government to promote our coast’s tourism attributes to its source markets.

The Kenya Tourist Board is singularly underfunded. Another change at the top – a new Minister of Tourism does not bode well for Kenya’s tourism sector – in that with only seven months to go before the next general election little can be effectively done, and that those seven months will no doubt be spent campaigning to ensure the incumbent is re-elected.

Occupancy rates, if honestly told, on Kenya’s South Coast for the month of August – normally in the high 90s are on average about 25%. In Watamu perennial all-star Turtle Bay, usually sold out, reports an occupancy rate of 42%. Frightening statistics, in this writer’s humble opinion.

To add fuel to the sorry state of affairs at the coast, a number of international airlines are having difficulty obtaining operating permits to serve Mombasa directly from the likes of the Gulf and Europe. I’ll add that this is scheduled service connecting to global hubs rather than seasonal charter services.

I was talking to my friends at Qatar Airways who bemoaned the delay in the start-up of their new daily service from the world through Doha to Mombasa.

Why was Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) refusing to issue the necessary operating certificate? Was Kenya Airways applying pressure to protect their interests in the area?

Out of the blue I got another call from Brussels Airlines who had announced new once-weekly scheduled service from Brussels to Mombasa starting in November. They too had hit a brick wall as in the Qatar scenario above.

What’s going on?

Evidently mega-airline Emirates are waiting in the wings to see what the eventual outcome of both Qatar and Brussels Airlines cases to serve Mombasa will be. They have plans too…

No wonder our coast tourism industry is up in arms – here is an opportunity to stimulate growth, new business perhaps, now delayed because no-one is prepared to make a decision. I can see down the road Kenya Airways applying for new routes, as is its intention, to find it too will hit the proverbial brick wall – what goes around usually comes around in this world of ours.

While at the coast I again am amazed at the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) take on who can do what and how, on the beaches of the precious Watamu National Marine Park.

For a number of years beach traders have operated sensible associations along the beach, selling their wares to tourists. They all had IDs and kept the beach clean with limited touting – it seemed to work. Not so to the powers that be at KWS – they were all ruthlessly torn down. “This is a national park!” they said. Which of course it is, but why are they allowing huge colonies of sun-beds to be erected at Plot 40? Food and drink served in unhygienic circumstances and more importantly no public facilities whatsoever.

Campaigners against this blight are talking of taking sun-beds to Mzima Springs in Tsavo East National Park on the pretext that if it’s good for this National Park why not that National Park.

While in Watamu, for it wasn’t all play, friend Max Cheli showed me around the new Medina Palms complex and mightily impressed I was. When it opens early next year it will be an hotel of some note – and most importantly situated right on the best beach in the whole world.

Keeping with the work theme at the coast, I visited columnist Duncan Mitchell at Vipingo Ridge – “Now you see why I never leave this place,” he said. I see, I see – what a magnificent part of the world, massive vistas out to sea, a hugely impressive golf course  – a 21st century development right here in Kenya – well done you far-sighted developers.

Finally, looking for a good garage? I rate the DT Dobie lot – real 21st Century stuff, text to tell you how much and car ready etc.  Of course you have to own a Merc., Renault or Nissan – I the later.